[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 77 (Tuesday, April 22, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 22419-22421]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-09140]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 140220164-4164-01]
RIN 0648-BE00


Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 
Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast 
Groundfish Fishery; Fishing Year 2014; Recreational Management Measures

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Interim final rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: This action changes the Gulf of Maine Atlantic cod and haddock 
recreational fishery minimum fish size requirements, per-angler 
possession limits, and fishing seasons for the 2014 fishing year (May 
1, 2014-April 30, 2015). This action is necessary to ensure that 
recreational catch does not exceed recreational catch limits for these 
two stocks for the 2014 fishing year, consistent with the Northeast 
Multispecies Fishery Management Plan accountability measures. The 
intended effect of the changes is to ensure effective management so 
recreational catch limits are not exceeded as part of the larger 
Northeast multispecies catch limit and accountability measures 
management system designed to prevent overfishing.

DATES: Effective May 1, 2014. Comments must be received by May 22, 
2014.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2014-0044, 
by any of the following methods:
     Electronic submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2014-0044, click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, 
complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to John K. Bullard, Regional 
Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic 
Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope, 
``Comments on the FY 2014 Cod and Haddock Recreational Measures.''
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in 
Microsoft Word, Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only.
    Copies of a supplemental environmental assessment (EA) to Framework 
(FW) 51 prepared by the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office 
(GARFO) and Northeast Fisheries Science Center (Center) and the FW 51 
EA prepared by the New England Fishery Management Council (Council) for 
this rulemaking are available from John K. Bullard, Regional 
Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic 
Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. The FW 51 EA and supplement are also 
accessible via the Internet at www.nero.noaa.gov/sfd/sfdmulti.html.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael Ruccio, Fishery Policy 
Analyst, phone: 978-281-9104.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Fishing Year (FY) 2014 Recreational Management Measures

    After consultation with the Council, NMFS is implementing through 
this rule measures to ensure FY 2014 Gulf of Maine (GOM) cod and 
haddock recreational catch do not exceed the recreational sub-annual 
catch limits (sub-ACLs) for these stocks. These measures are specified 
in Table 1 with information on FY 2013 measures for comparison.

                       Table 1--GOM Cod and Haddock Recreational Management Measures for FY 2014 and Changes From FY 2013 Measures
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                                                      FY 2014 measures                                            FY 2013 measures
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                                     Per day
                                    possession                             Possession                                                     Possession
             Species                  limit      Minimum fish size,     prohibited (GOM     Per day possession   Minimum fish size,    prohibited (GOM
                                    (fish per       inches  (cm)             area)                limit             inches (cm)             area)
                                     angler)
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Cod..............................            9  21 (53.34)..........  September 1, 2014-   9..................  19 (48.26 mm)......  November 1-April
                                                                       April 14, 2015.                                                15.
Haddock..........................            3  21 (53.34)..........  September 1-         unlimited..........  21 (53.34).........  None.
                                                                       November 30, 2014
                                                                       and March 1-April
                                                                       30, 2015.
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The description for how days are counted for daily possession limits is found at Sec.   648.89(c)(4).


[[Page 22420]]

    The measures NMFS is implementing for FY 2014 are projected to have 
a 50-percent or greater probability of achieving a total mortality 
estimate of 422 mt for recreational GOM cod (64 mt less than the sub-
ACL) and 80 mt of haddock (7 mt lower than the sub-ACL). The provisions 
requiring these measures can be found in Sec.  648.89(f)(2) of the 
Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan (FMP) implementing 
regulations.

Background

    More substantial background on this action, including details on 
Recreational Advisory Panel (RAP) and Council-recommended measures and 
the resulting projected catch in FY 2014 associated with those options, 
can be found in the supplemental EA prepared for this action. 
Additional information regarding the presentations and discussions held 
by the RAP and Council are available on the Council's Web site: http://www.nefmc.org/. The supplemental EA is available as outlined in the 
ADDRESSESS section of this rule's preamble. NMFS is concurrently 
developing a proposed rule with the Council's catch recommendations, 
including recreational catch limits, and other FY 2014 management 
measures contained in Framework Adjustment (FW 51) to the FMP for May 
1, 2014, implementation. The proposed and final rules for FW 51 (when 
published), along with supporting analyses for FW 51 can be found at 
the Federal electronic rulemaking portal: Regulations.gov. Reference 
docket NOAA-NMFS-2014-0003. www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-
NMFS-2014-0003. The following is a brief background overview.
    Based on measures implemented pursuant to Framework Adjustment 48 
to the FMP, when the current fishing year recreational GOM cod and 
haddock catch is projected to exceed the established recreational sub-
ACLs, NMFS must, after consultation with the Council, adjust the 
recreational management measures through rulemaking for the upcoming 
season to ensure that catch limits are not exceeded. Recreational 
management measures generally include a combination of the minimum fish 
size anglers may keep, the number of fish anglers may keep (possession 
limit), and the seasons when fishing is allowed.
    The GOM cod and haddock recreational catch estimates indicate the 
estimated FY 2013 GOM cod catch is 706 mt and 256 mt for GOM 
haddock.\1\ These catch estimates significantly exceed the fishing year 
FY 2013 sub-ACLs, which is 486 mt for GOM cod and is 74 mt for GOM 
haddock. For FY 2014, the Council has recommended a recreational 486-mt 
sub-ACL for GOM cod and an 87-mt recreational sub-ACL for GOM haddock. 
As specified in Table 2, in order not to not exceed the recommended 
sub-ACLS in FY 2014, recreational GOM cod catch must be reduced from 
actual 2013 catch estimates by 31 percent for GOM cod and 66 percent 
for GOM haddock.
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    \1\ Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) data through 
May 1-December 31, 2013, with projected landings for the rest of the 
fishing year based on prior year catch in March-April 2013 (referred 
to as Wave 2; under MRIP, a calendar year is divided into six 2-two 
month ``Waves''). Note the projection for calendar year 2014 does 
not include January and February. Wave 1 (January-February) is not 
sampled even though the haddock fishery is open. Effort and catch is 
believed to be minimal during this time period.

Table 2--FY 2013 and 2014 Recreational GOM Cod and Haddock Catch, Catch Limits, and Catch Reduction Information,
                                               in Metric Tons (mt)
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                                                                                                      Percent
                                                                   Percent of FY     Council-      reduction in
            GOM Stock              FY 2013 sub-      Estimated     2013 sub-ACL   recommended FY     landings
                                        ACL         total catch       caught       2014 sub-ACL    needed for FY
                                                                                                       2014
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Cod.............................             486             706             145             486              31
Haddock.........................              74             256             246              87              66
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Total catch = MRIP data through Wave 6 (December 31, 2013) and projected Wave 2 (April-May, 2014) data.

    On February 19, 2014, NMFS Office of Science and Technology revised 
MRIP data from 2003-present to correct an error found in the data 
processing of length-weight information. This revision did not change 
effort and catch in numbers of fish but did impact all length-weight 
related estimates. Analyses conducted by staff from NMFS Northeast 
Fisheries Science Center indicate that the data revisions did not 
significantly change the previous catch projections for FY 2013 or the 
analysis of potential FY 2014 measures. Additional evaluation of 
potential impacts throughout the time series is ongoing.
    Because annual year-to-year recreational management measures are 
considered to be a temporary specification under the FMP, they are not 
codified in the Code of Federal Regulations. Instead, rules like this 
one are promulgated and announced in the Federal Register and further 
communicated to the public in letters to Federal permit holders, 
published on-line/Web site notices, and multiple information outlets 
such as social media, notices to states and recreational fishing 
associations, etc. Violation of specifications, such as these 
recreational management measures, is prohibited under Sec.  
648.14(a)(1).
    As part of the consultation process required to implement these 
measures, the Council convened the RAP on February 19, 2014, to 
recommend management measure changes for the Council's consideration. 
The RAP recommendation and additional alternatives were discussed by 
the Council at its February 25, 2014, meeting. The Council recommended 
that NMFS consider the RAP and additional recommendations from the 
Council. The Council also requested additional analyses to evaluate the 
potential catch reduction that would result from changes to the cod and 
haddock possession limits.
    None of the alternatives recommended by the RAP or the Council 
provide at least a 50-percent probability (i.e., 50/50) of preventing 
FY 2014 recreational sub-ACLs for these two stocks from being exceeded 
based on FY 2013 catch. To determine what measures are necessary to 
have at least a 50-percent probability of preventing these sub-ACLs 
from being exceeded, NMFS analyzed additional options for FY 2014 
measures as more fully

[[Page 22421]]

discussed in the Supplemental EA. Based on this additional analysis, 
NMFS derived the measures specified in Table 1.
    NMFS is aware that the reduction in haddock possession limit is a 
substantial change in the fishery and was only discussed as a 
management concept during the RAP and Council meetings. NMFS sought to 
find measures that made use of as much of the Council's recommendations 
as possible and that were consistent with the non-binding 
prioritization in the proactive accountability measures language (Sec.  
648.89(f)(3)), while mitigating impacts on the recreational fishery to 
the extent practicable. For example, the FY 2014 measures retain the 
21-inch (53.34-cm) minimum fish size and Wave 5 (September-October 
2014) closure recommended by the Council and supported in public 
comments during the Council proceedings. The measures also make use of 
a reduced haddock bag limit which is consistent with one of the 
Council's recommendations. The addition of a Wave 2 (March-April 2015) 
closure provides a median probability catch below the FY 2014 haddock 
recreational sub-ACL.
    A benchmark stock assessment for GOM haddock is planned for June 
2014. The results from this assessment should be available by late 
summer. NMFS will consider the results when available along with public 
comment on these interim measures and take appropriate action if 
warranted. While the outcome of the assessment cannot be predicted, 
part of the rationale for including a spring closure for haddock as 
opposed to an earlier closure is the possibility that the measures may 
be changed before the closure occurs.

Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 
NMFS Assistant Administrator has made a determination that this interim 
rule is consistent with the Northeast Multispecies FMP, other 
provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law.
    Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) and 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), the 
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries finds good cause to waive the 
otherwise applicable requirements for both notice and comment 
rulemaking and a 30-day delay in effectiveness for this interim final 
action implementing FY 2014 recreational GOM cod and haddock management 
measures. As explained in further detail hereafter, the availability of 
information necessary to ensure that measures were in place for the May 
1, 2014, start of the fishing year made it impracticable to provide 
prior notice-and-comment opportunity and a 30-day delay in 
effectiveness and still get the measures in place in a timely fashion. 
The measures being implemented by this interim final rule are 
substantial reductions from those in place for FY 2013. Fishing effort 
and catch are both strong in May and subsequent summer months. Delaying 
implementation of FY 2014 measures until sometime after May 1, 2014, 
could require the implementation of even more stringent measures with 
possibly more social and economic impacts to fishery participants to 
ensure limits on total catch for the year are not exceeded. Doing so 
would be contrary to the public interest and would undermine the intent 
of the rule. Development of measures was publicly discussed at a RAP 
and Council meeting in February 2014 and NMFS is soliciting public 
comment on the interim measures contained in this rule.
    Recreational fisheries data are available from NMFS's MRIP survey 
program approximately 45 days after each 2-month sampling wave. The 
necessary information to evaluate FY 2013 fishery performance through 
October 2013 was not available until mid-December 2013. An initial 
evaluation of these data occurred shortly thereafter and NMFS notified 
the Council by letter on January 17, 2014, that the FY 2013 
recreational sub-ACLs for both GOM cod and haddock had been exceeded 
and that NMFS intended to adjust FY 2014 measures in accordance with 
requirements in regulations for implementing accountability measures to 
address the overage. These requirements require that NMFS consult with 
the Council before setting new ACLs. As part of this consultation 
process for FY 2014, the Council had to convene its RAP and consider 
possible recommendations for NMFS. The earliest that the Council could 
consider these recommendations was at its February 25, 2014, meeting. 
The Council, in turn, forwarded recommendations to NMFS to consider as 
measures for FY 2014 that begins on May 1, 2014.
    These timing-related issues paired with the need to complete 
analyses and the rulemaking processes make it impossible to propose 
recreational measures through notice-and-comment rulemaking before the 
start of the fishing year, May 1, 2014. By implementing these measures 
through an interim final rule, NMFS can provide some advance notice to 
the public, though less than 30 days, and receive comments on the 
interim final rule. These comments will be considered and any necessary 
changes to measures put forward in a final rule later in the fishing 
year.
    For the reasons outlined, NMFS finds it impracticable and contrary 
to the public interest to provide prior opportunity to comment on FY 
2014 recreational management measures and provide a 30-day delay in 
implementation. Therefore there exists good cause to waive both of 
those requirements.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    This interim final rule does not contain policies with Federalism 
or ``takings'' implications as those terms are defined in E.O. 13132 
and E.O. 12630, respectively.
    This interim final rule is exempt from the procedures of the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act because the rule is issued without 
opportunity for prior notice and opportunity for public comment.

    Dated: April 17, 2014.
Paul N. Doremus,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Operations, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-09140 Filed 4-21-14; 8:45 am]
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